If I fly with the wings of my mind
They can carry me far away
If I find, in the corners of my mind
The dark thoughts, they muddle my way
Sequester myself from those dark thoughts
Invest my time in the world outside
There are signs along the way to help me stay
When I was younger, I heard the term, “shut-in,” applied to older folks who couldn’t get out in the world. My mom taught me that it was a community’s responsibility to remember those people and to help bring the world to them. Even in high school, when given the choice between spending an afternoon with under-privileged kids and under-appreciated elderly adults, I chose the latter almost exclusively. Oddball, I know.
Lately, I’ve been wondering though, if my heart for and attachment to these dear souls has something to do with the “shut-in” inside of me. For those of us who deal with blue days, turning into black weeks, turning into numb months, I know it is a struggle to get out of bed. Some days it’s a struggle to open the shades on my windows. I’ve nursed a pain before that was so deep, the only thing that seemed to help was the beautiful descent into a glorious slumber.
The problem with these survival techniques is that they are not sustainable. One can’t sleep forever. I’ve given that theory a run for its money. So at the end of a binge of whatever seems to ease the pain, we are left with a consciousness of wasted time, buried issues, and, at least for me, self-loathing. It sounds terrible, when I write it like that! It is terrible.
I wrote the song, “Alive,” a few months ago, and I credit it with being the first song I’d written in six years. Its arrival also marked the first time in a while, that I let myself honestly critique where I had been mentally and emotionally. It’s not easy to invite yourself to a self-inflicted roast, but the obscurity you and the world project onto each other fades away in front of a mirror.
For years, I had been living as a “shut-in” in my relatively healthy, twenty-something body. My emotional and mental blackout had not only spanned most of my adult life, but had also encroached on any vision of my purpose for living. When I think to how much time I wasted and how many opportunities I missed, I struggle to find meaning in it all. The most valuable thing I have learned from my time as a shut-in is simple: “Get out!”
When I want to sleep, “get out!” When I feel like internalizing, “get out!” When I forget how to smile, “get out!” When I want to feel something, even if it is pain, “get out!” And, getting out doesn’t just mean finding some grass and smiling at a bird. Getting out means getting out of your own mind, getting out of situations that trigger darkness, getting out of bed. Sometimes, a move to the living room is a big step! This rule won’t fix all of my problems, but it’s an excellent place to start, and one that I have to remind myself of daily. Outside is what the Creator has given us. Outside is where he has called us to be. I also believe that outside is where we’ll find the “signs along the way to help us stay alive.”